September 23, 2022

Colleges aim to address labor shortage on barges | New

by CESAR SALAZAR

At its Aug. 11 meeting, the Winona Port Authority authorized city staff to send letters of requested legislative support to U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to address Minnesota’s shortage of maritime workers. A consortium of Minnesota colleges, including Minnesota State College Southeast (MSC Southeast), is seeking to apply for the Domestic Maritime Center of Excellence (DMCoE) designation.

If the legislation is passed, the consortium, among other community and technical colleges, could apply for workforce grants that would help public colleges train more domestic maritime workers.

“It’s a project that started a few months ago; in communication with Minnesota State College Southeast Technical,” City of Winona Community Development Director Lucy McMartin said during the meeting. “They were looking at a federal grant to train maritime workers, and they realized that with just Winona it would be hard to do, but through a consortium of other colleges…together they might be able to create a center for excellence in training people in the maritime industry.

The consortium also includes Saint Paul College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota.

There is currently a shortage of maritime workers and the colleges would like to help fill these vacancies. “There are a lot of tug captains, hands, et cetera, reaching retirement age,” McMartin said. “There is a great need for this, and through a consortium they are looking to do this.”

Port Authority Commissioner George Borzyskowski asked if the grants would be eligible for other transportation needs. McMartin replied, “It would be anything related to shipping, so it could also include other transportation components.” She continued, “It would be mostly navy-focused. People usually start out as deckhands and then progress. »

In letters to senators, the port said, “The availability of these grant funds will provide critical training opportunities for maritime workers, both afloat and ashore in the communities served by Minnesota State College Southeast.”

According to the letters, the shortage of skilled maritime workers is the main challenge hindering the growth of the national maritime sector. To be qualified, maritime workers must have highly skilled technical training and licenses, and workers must train regularly. “Community and technical colleges can provide this training at an affordable price,” the letter states.

Under the DMCoE programs, the consortium would be eligible to acquire Maritime Workforce Training Grants. According to the Federal Register on DMCoE Applications, “Applications, including all information and supporting documentation, must be submitted by September 19, 2022.” In 2021, the Secretary of Transportation designated 27 institutions as DMCoEs.

MSC Southeast declined to comment, citing the early stage of the bid.

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